Over the past five years, the Middle East has emerged as the epicenter of global defense activity. While Saudi Arabia has led the charge, it is the Saudi National Guard (SANG) that has gained much momentum under the radar. While global defense firms have dedicated resources to targeting the Saudi MoD, the SANG has traditionally received less attention due to unique political and contracting dynamics. This customer, numbering over 100,000 uniformed personnel (75,000 active troops, and 25,000 tribal militia), is not governed by the MoD and has displayed more streamlined procurement processes than are common in the region. Since its formal inception in 1955, the SANG has evolved from a loosely organized tribal militia to a sophisticated, well-equipped modern force chartered to secure critical infrastructure, combat domestic terrorism, and, above all, protect the royal family.
Two US-backed entities have played a significant role in supporting modernization initiatives that have driven the evolution of this Saudi military organization. In the 1970s the United States established the Office of Personnel Management for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM SANG) to advise and train this force, as well as guide all procurement initiatives. In 1975, OPM SANG awarded the first support contract to the Vinnell Corporation to retrain and reorganize the SANG into a structured military.  To this day, Vinnell has won multiple follow-ons to the SANG Training and Support contract and remains entrenched with this customer. OPM SANG continues to oversee modernization efforts, serving as a bridge between the US defense industry and key stakeholders within the SANG.
In 2010, the SANG ushered in a new modernization thrust with the appointment of the King’s eldest son, Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, to Commander of the SANG. Prince Miteb was charged with a $3 billion directive to further upgrade equipment and capabilities. With OPM SANG support, contracts for additional GDLS LAV II vehicles were signed and the SANG began building out a multi-billion dollar Air Wing with the acquisition of around 150 attack and transport helicopters from Boeing and MD Helicopters.  The SANG is now entertaining the idea of creating a Naval command, as the organization rapidly transforms into a multi-faceted military force. In addition to furthering military capabilities, Prince Miteb was recently granted the position of Minister for the newly formed National Guard Ministry, which represents the SANG’s enhanced political clout.
At this juncture, there is still tremendous opportunity to shape demand with this organization. In addition to basic MRO and support services and advanced equipment, there are 25,000 tribal militia or Fowj that are yet to be outfitted with modern equipment and training procedures. However, due to the very specific mission-set of the SANG, some western governments have been hesitant to allow solutions and platforms to be exported. Moreover, while the SANG is a defense organization, its role as a counterweight to the Saudi military has presented an institutionalized divide between the forces, requiring a unique approach.